Electric Bikes Are Not Causing Injuries on the UWS, But Still Spook Residents

Electric bikes have not resulted in many injuries on the UWS, but the mayor is pushing a crackdown.

By Hannah Reale

At a press conference on the Upper West Side last year, the mayor announced a crackdown on electric bikes, which are mostly used by delivery workers. He said the bikes, which are illegal to ride in New York City, posed dangers to pedestrians. But in the precinct where he was speaking — the 20th — there was only one crash involving an electric bike last year, and the only person injured in that crash was the rider, according to the NYPD.

At a Community Board 7 transportation committee meeting earlier this month, NYPD officials discussed crash statistics. Of the 58 reported bicycle crashes in 2017 (up from 46 in 2016), only one involved an e-bike—and in that particular incident, the rider hit a pothole, according to Sgt. Felicia Montgomery of the 20th precinct, which covers the Upper West Side from 59th to 86th Street. Captain Manuel of the 24th precinct, which covers the UWS from 86th to 110th, did not offer specific stats on the number of injuries but said “we’re not seeing a lot of collisions with e-bikes.”

“But it’s still a concern because when you talk about a motorized vehicle which can go at high rates of speed which is an issue for pedestrian safety so it’s something we take very seriously,” he added.

NYPD can now confiscate e-bikes, and de Blasio said he wants police to focus their fines on the owners of businesses that employ people riding e-bikes, as opposed to the e-bike riders themselves. A business employing delivery workers who use electric bikes can be slapped with a civil summons and $100 fines for a first offense and $200 fines for subsequent offenses. Bicycling advocates argue that the fines will invariably hurt the workers, who are often immigrants without the money to afford large fines.

Captain Manuel reported that 38 e-bikes were seized in the 24th precinct and Sergeant Montgomery said that 51 e-bikes were seized in the 20th precinct. Sergeant Montgomery explained that when the bike is confiscated, the summons is given to the e-bike operator. But those bikes often end up on the street again.

“People that work for, whether it’s UberEATS [or other] delivery services, they will go down to [the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings],” Montgomery explained. “If I take the bike tonight, they go down to OATH, pay the $500 fine. They don’t ask to go to court, they don’t ask for a court date, they pay the $500 fine and we’re mandated to give them the bike back because that’s their property. So a lot of the bikes that we take from the restaurants here, within 2 or 3 hours…they’re back in the precinct to pick up their bike.”

Some community members at the meeting said they felt the bikes are dangerous because of how quickly they travel. Last year, Council member Helen Rosenthal said at de Blasio’s press conference that her office gets frequent complaints about the bikes. “One of the top complaints we hear about in District 6 is about the electric bikes that ride extremely fast frequently in the wrong direction and without any lights or sound indication of their presence,” she said.

The NYPD’s legal bureau will be working with the 24th precinct in the coming weeks, upon the precinct’s request, to ensure that all seizures of e-bikes are lawfully performed, Manuel said.

Photo via flickr.

NEWS | 75 comments | permalink
    1. Jose Habib says:

      Of all the things to crack down on, why this? Clean up the streets and subways instead.

      • Woody says:

        That’s such a knee-jerk superficial response. I don’t even know what it takes to just make such a general suggestion as if the process for those goals is so easy. City government could and should can handle multiple issues simultaneously.

        • Guest says:

          The data indicates that eBikes are not a problem. This is ridiculous.

        • Tyson White says:

          Except that they’re not handling other issues! There’s little enforcement of motorist texting and failing to yield to pedestrians. Just 2 tickets a day according to NYPD.

          Just yesterday a 55″ long tractor trailer (illegal in NYC) killed a man on Amsterdam Ave. They don’t fine/confiscate these illegal trucks.


          • Stuart says:

            Riders of electric bikes and regular (non electric, like CitiBikes) are equally at fault. The city has installed bike lanes and changed traffic signals to accommodate cyclists, yet cyclists continue to ride outside the lanes and ignore the signals. Until cyclists are forced to take tests to earn licenses (and pay for the licenses, like car, bus, and truck drivers), accidents and injuries will continue without anyone being fined or jailed.

            • Arjan says:

              I’m new in NYC and I find that all traffic behavior is really poor, trucks, cars, cyclists, pedestrians. So obliging cyclists to get a permit isn’t going to help I think.

              I think there is a main difference between cyclists and cars/trucks. They put mostly themselves at a risk when riding like crazy, instead of cars/trucks that pose a much larger risk to others. As you say, the number of bike lanes has been increasing, but I still wouldn’t say that it is safe to ride your bike around Manhattan.

              But coming back to the electric bikes, I think it is a great alternative for the scooters that are being use where I’m from; no noise, no pollution. What’s the alternative when they are banned? But I can agree that they should be safe to ride, so with proper lights and brakes and this should be enforced (also by their employers).

    2. Sid says:

      “But it’s still a concern because when you talk about a motorized vehicle which can go at high rates of speed which is an issue for pedestrian safety so it’s something we take very seriously,”

      You mean, like a car? I am constantly calling the 24th to report reckless driving, and CB7 themselves have found enforcement lacking in our neighborhood.

      • your neighbor says:

        Cars almost always travel in the proper direction on streets.
        You can hear cars coming.
        Cars are generally operated by licensed drivers carrying government issued identification and having mandated insurance policies.

        E-bikes travel at the same (city) speed as cars but accelerate to 25mph faster than most cars and weigh in the neighborhood of 100 lbs. Add to that the weight of the rider and a speed of 20+ mph and that is a lot of momentum if it hits you.
        Hopefully the laws with soon catch up to this technology and there will be a separate set of laws for e-bikes.

        • Bob says:

          And yet, despite all those wonderful features of cars that you mention, car drivers manage to kill an average of a couple pedestrians each week in NYC. Contrast that with e-bike riders who have killed exactly zero people in New York–ever.

        • Zulu says:

          But they are not hitting you; however, cars are.

        • Petra Hollingsworth says:

          It doesn’t matter if you can “hear cars coming” when they speed through red lights and around corners without yielding. That’s kind of why thousands of people are either killed or maimed by motor vehicles in this city every year, as opposed to virtually zero deaths caused by cyclists, and only a handful of injuries.

          • your neighbor says:

            At least the cars and the trucks are travelling on the street and going in the proper direction. You can look in that direction and have a good probability of estimating your chances.
            The e-bikes go on sidewalks and travel any direction they choose on any street at car like speeds.

            • Petra Hollingsworth says:

              And yet still, e-bikes aren’t killing or maiming people like cars. You can start as many arguments with “at least…” as you like, the proof is in the pudding. Motor vehicles kill. E-bikes don’t.

        • Josh says:

          On my block, cars consistently drive down the wrong direction because both ends of the block flow into Amsterdam and somehow drivers on one side can’t seem to see the giant “DO NOT ENTER” signs across the street in front of them, or realize that the flashing yellow arrow means you have to turn rather than go straight.

          So yeah, actually, I see cars travelling the wrong way (at 25mph) all the time. Also, there is a garage 1/4 of the block from Amsterdam, and regular parkers will often drive the wrong way to avoid going around the block. See that a few times a day.

    3. Juan says:

      This is fine, but I don’t want to hear anyone complaining when their precious takeout Chinese is 2 minutes late.

    4. nycityny says:

      Non-motorized bikes are just as dangerous, largely because of the riders.

      I marvel at the very rapid speed of the delivery guys on non-motorized bikes going up Amsterdam in the 70s and 80s. They seem faster than cars. They ride in the bike lane but still run the risk of hitting pedestrians at intersections.

      Also, as a pedestrian I “collided” with a delivery bicyclist a few years ago on Columbus. He fell off his bike and I was in pain for a few days. But it wasn’t reported to anybody. He just got back on his bike and left and I resumed walking. Virtually nothing was said between us. He was going the wrong way on Columbus and I was crossing mid-block only looking for cars coming from the “proper” direction. Now I look both ways before crossing these one-way streets. Shouldn’t be necessary but it is.

      • kevd says:

        Was nothing said because you both understood that you were both at fault?
        I hit someone who stepped out midblock on broadway, looking the wrong way for traffic (this was by union square).
        We made sure we we both alright before either left. I was still sore for a few days.

        Glad it was just a few days of soreness. Perhaps for his next vision zero initiative our mayor will crack down on pedestrians crossing mid-block?

    5. Michael says:

      I was just crossing Amsterdam Ave when an e-bike went through a red light at at least 30 miles/hour in front of me and my dog. All dark clothing, no light, I never saw him coming. It wasn’t a close call, but some of these guys are dangerous. All in all though, here in the 26 pct, the police need to deal with the flagrant speeding, running lights and reckless driving, up Broadway especially.

      • Elizabeth says:

        He was going 20mph, not 30mph.

        I was once crossing Broadway in daylight while a manual biker decided to blow through the red light at 20+mph. He hit my bag and took a bad spill.

      • Guest says:

        99% of the eBikes you see on the streets of NYC top out at 20 MPH.

        A bit faster than a bicyclist and slower than automotive traffic.

      • Tyson White says:

        Same thing ever happen to you by a turning vehicle?

        Maybe, but you’ve already accepted that it’s normal.

    6. Miriam says:

      Did they consider that the reason there are less e-bike accidents is because there are significantly fewer of them on the road compared to regular bikes?

      • Guest says:

        There have been ZERO fatalities and few injuries serious enough to be documented. That means that eBikes are NOT a serious public health hazard.

        This crackdown is only happening because these are the easiest street users to crack down on politically.

    7. Glen says:

      Sorry, just because they have not killed anyone does not mean they are not dangerous, ignore traffic lights and have a negative impact on the quality of life. If anyone doubts me I invite you to walk West End Avenue any evening between 5-8pm. Count the number of times you have to jump out of the way to avoid the delivery men ON THE SIDEWALK with electric bikes (and regular bikes for that matter).

      • Petra Hollingsworth says:

        If they’re not causing death or injury then they’re not dangerous, it’s as simple as that. I bet you can’t find a single article about someone being killed or seriously injured by an e-bike in this city. Versus literally hundreds of articles in the space of a year involving people being killed or maimed by the motor vehicles which Albany prohibits us from cracking down on via speed cameras etc.

        • Cat says:

          They’re not supposed to be ON THE SIDEWALK! Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp?

          • Petra Hollingsworth says:

            Given that they’re not causing death or serious injury, how difficult is it to understand that there are FAR more important things to “crack down on,” given that the NYPD has limited resources for law enforcement. When have you ever heard the NYPD or the mayor announce a crackdown on illegal big rigs that kill and maim dozens, for instance?

          • djx says:

            If you want to say ebikes annoy you, have at it.

            But if you talk about ebikes being dangerous, you’re just making it up. They’re dangerous in a tiny tiny way.

            Our city has thousands of people being hit by cars each year, and hundreds killed, and for NYPD to focus on ebikes (“crack down”) is a waste of resources that I want to be used to actually protect us.

            is that so hard to understand. Ask our police to focus enforcement on actual safety.

            Not “an ebike almost hit me.” Cars almost hit me every single day. They almost hit every one of us, over and over again. But too many people are used to it we accept it. Plus delivery guys are the bottom of the heap politically, so people pile on them.

            It’s BS.

            If you want cops to focus on something that annoys you, while spending less time on stuff that is far more likely to maim you, at least be honest about it.

        • Zzzzzzoooooooom! says:

          Reactionary much?

          An ounce of prevention. Stop them before they kill.

          • Zulu says:

            Riiight, much better than don’t-stop-even-after-they-kill approach to everything that’s not a bicycle.

        • lynn says:

          What does one thing have to do with the other? I’ve been injured twice, once after being hit, and the 2nd time falling when I tried to scoop up my dog before she got run over(torn ligaments in the same knee both times which required cortisone shots and physical therapy). I didn’t know I was supposed to report it to the news! Just for the record I didn’t know I’d need to have my phone/camera ready the first time, and the 2nd time I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough (the dog took priority). The e bikes and cars are two different issues and they’re both dangerous especially if the e bikes are flying down the sidewalk. I’d imagine it will take either a child or a senior getting mowed down before it’s newsworthy and counts as a statistic.

      • Bz says:

        I totally agree with you. WEA very dangerous between those hours.
        And not just there. The other day I was walking from 83rd to 73rd street and counted 8 delivery guys riding on the sidewalks at about 73Op. I noticed two were e- bikes couldn’t see if the others were. This type if situation will only get worse if e-bikes are allowed. What about all the near misses and injuries that aren’t reported. Just cause stats don’t reflect injuries doesn’t mean people aren’t hit.

    8. It is only a matter of time before a pedestrian is killed. Higher speeds plus greater weights equals recipe for disaster.

    9. OriginalMark says:

      I’d rather see a crackdown on all bicycle riders who wear headphones and/or use their phones while riding.

    10. David Collins says:

      Seems very simple to me.

      Electric bikes have an engine.

      Any vehicle with an engine should be subject to certain “oversight”, including registration of the vehicle, inspection and permitting of the operator.

      Put that in place or we are wasting our time here.

    11. BlingBling says:

      “the bikes, which are illegal to ride in New York City”

      End of story

      Anyone caught on these death traps are riding an illegal vehicle and deserve to suffer a fine and confiscation.

    12. djx says:

      If NYPD and the mayor were honest, and said “We get complaints from (relatively wealthy) constituents, so are cracking down” that would at least be honest.

      But NYPD claims this relates to Vision Zero (zero traffic deaths) and the mayor has said the e-bikes are unsafe. Those are lies.

    13. Ollie Oliver says:

      In December the 24th precinct wrote 39 tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians and 51 speeding tickets.

      The 20th wrote 30 fail to yield & 58 speeding tickets.

      Ebikes have been involved in zero pedestrian crashes. Drivers speeding and failing to yield are leading causes of fatal crashes in New York City. This is the definition of insanity.

    14. Nanny says:

      with the exception of motorized wheelchairs and scooters for the disabled, nothing with a motor should be ridden on sidewalks. Not long ago I watched a dog on a leash almost get strangled by a guy on a hover board who rode between the dog and its’ owner. He didn’t stop or apologize. I have seen him several more times on W 72nd st cruising along . Bike lanes should be for bikes, skateboards etc. and sideWALKS for pedestrians.

    15. Janice Walker says:

      Ebike is common in many countries safely, In Japan, it is a common household vehicle, use to transport groceries and children. Not having an electric bike, does not guarantee accidents or limits bad behavior. electric bikes are much safer then regular paddle bikes in the hand of a novice rider. The city is going the wrong direction, should make the roads safer, limit car numbers into the city, and more bike lanes to limit pedestrian injuries.

    16. RK says:

      As an avid cyclist, I resent seeing these electric motorcycles using the bike lanes. But then I remind myself of three things:

      1. Although counterintuitive, their safety record is good. Data trumps opinion or anecdote every time. And the plural of anecdote is not data.
      2. These delivery people are at the bottom of the social heap and lead a difficult life. The bikes let them make more tips.
      3. I want my food delivered faster. I mean, come on.

      I think there’s a reasonable compromise here somewhere. Some form of minor licensing and insurance requirements for commercial use, to be borne by the employer. Mandatory training (no salmoning up one way streets; go around the block. Pedestrians always have the right of way. etc.), better identification (why don’t these guys wear those safety vests with the restaurant clearly labeled?), mandatory safety features (electric front/back lights, not reflectors).

      • Elizabeth says:

        The compromise is, pedal assist is legal, throttles are not. The delivery industry and e-bike shops need to get with the program on that.

      • WestSideLilly says:

        Some good points here. While there may not have been anyone killed yet by an e-bike on the UWS, my personal experience is to have 1 to 2 “near misses” per week. Most of them e-bikes, but also some regular bikes. Always delivery workers. Key issue is usually reckless driving involving (1) running red lights, (2) going in wrong direction, (3) no lights even at night. While I’m not against e-bikes per se, their usually much higher speed makes the above reckless driving habits much more dangerous. My take: continue the crackdown, but limit it to those riders exhibiting dangerous driving habits.

        • Guest says:

          “my personal experience is to have 1 to 2 “near misses” per week.”

          You’re doing something wrong.

    17. Petra Hollingsworth says:

      So DeBlasio thinks that e-bikes, which haven’t killed anyone and haven’t even been in the news for so much as hurting anyone, should be cracked down upon. But these huge big rigs of a size which is ILLEGAL in the city, and which have killed and maimed hundreds of people, aren’t considered serious enough by our pointless mayor to justify even a single statement, and the NYPD doesn’t think they’re a problem either. If you need any more proof that the powers that be have an anti-cyclist agenda then you probably should have measurements taken of your skull.

    18. Tim says:

      “One of the top complaints we hear about in District 6 is about the electric bikes that ride extremely fast frequently in the wrong direction and without any lights or sound indication of their presence,”

      They do that to avoid the police confiscating their bikes. By going the wrong way on a narrow street, if a cop in a car sees them, the cop needs to do a U-turn or circle the block to catch them. That gives them a lot of time to disappear. And riding without lights also makes them harder to spot.

      Making eBikes illegal makes the eBikes that are out there more dangerous. Legalize them, issue tickets for disobeying traffic laws, and they’ll be safer.

      • Zulu says:

        You make it sound like they’re part of a crime syndicate. They’re making a buck, is what they’re doing.

        And so that you know, cops can issue tickets to a cyclists just the same without the need for the cyclist to have insurance or a “rider license”.

    19. Elizabeth says:

      Remember that pedal assist (“pedelec”) e-bikes are legal in NYC, whereas e-bikes with throttles are not. Existing e-bikes with throttles can be converted to legal pedelec by disabling or removing the throttle. That would significantly improve one’s legal standing the bike were impounded anyway by NYPD.

    20. Guest says:

      The anti-eBike idiots are as bad as the people who are trying to prevent the elevator addition at that station downtown because “terrorism.”

      I live in a city of idiots.

      Some eBike riders are annoying, crack down on those that put others in danger. Don’t take away people’s bikes because they just happen to have an electric motor.

      In a couple years, eBikes will be so commonplace that the state will be forced to create proper regulations and legalize them. I wonder what you morons will complain about next.

    21. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      I don’t view E-bikes as a major problem. The real problem is aggressive car-drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, speed, and go through red lights.

    22. Ferris Wheels says:

      Remembering a couple of years ago when groups of young men were riding illegal motorcycles through the Upper West Side, at high speed, weaving through traffic, “popping wheelies”, etc.

      Not one accident was recorded. Not one accident was caused. No injuries. No deaths.

      Why did the city move to crack down on these motorcycle riders?

      Was it because their behavior was: 1) against the law; and 2) perceived to be dangerous, even though no accidents, injuries or deaths were caused?

      Riding motorized bicycles at high rates of speed against traffic, and/or the wrong way in bike lanes, and/or on the sidewalks is perceived as dangerous.

      Whether anyone has been injured yet or not, there is a higher likelihood of injury or death, unless COMMON SENSE SAFETY limits are imposed.

      What percentage of these motorized bicycle riders have liability insurance?

      Bueller? Bueller? ……

    23. Oona says:

      the Upper West Side has a large population of senior citizens who made our community what it is right now, a nice place to live. If you are a young person E bikes may not scare you but if you are a senior or the slightest bit disabled and need to cross the Avenues they are frightening because they are silent, go at high speed and do not obey traffic signals. Seniors bones and joints are fragile & an injury may prove permanently disabling and with many seniors living alone an injury of that type may prove to be their undoing. I like a bikes and think they are cool but they be made to follow the traffic signals and go the right way on the streets. we all like our dinner delivered hot and quickly but not at the expense of terrorizing our elders.

    24. Ed says:

      Traffic enforcement against autos and ALL BIKERS is non-existent. For every e-bike I see, I see 5 citi or privately owned bikes going through red lights, going the wrong way and riding in the street or on sidewalks. What was the point of bike lanes and why is this allowed to go on.

      • Woody says:

        Traffic enforcement against PEDESTRIANS is non-existent. For every pedestrian I see, I see 5 pedestrians crossing against red lights, walking in the bike lane or stepping off the sidewalk mid-block. What was the point of crosswalks and traffic signals and why is this allowed to go on.

    25. Ardith says:

      The police should leave pedal-assist e-bikes alone, except for ticketing for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, for not stopping for lights and for not walking them on the sidewalk. Confiscating them is stupid and wasteful. They should be permitted in bike lanes, since that’s safer than mixing them among cars and trucks.

    26. Rudie says:

      Over the summer, I got hit by one of those bikes going the wrong way on Amsterdam Ave. I never saw it. I was crossing at 107th, looking south. A large SUV was parked, the light turned, I stepped past it to cross & got slammed. He never saw me either. If someone much larger than I not been standing on the other side of me, I would have flown. People did find my shoes and things, which did go flying. I lost consciousness, an ambulance came, they were great, but I didn’t want to go to the hospital. They let me go home and I lived to tell. I never hit my head on the pavement but I was all banged up and sore. It could have been so much worse. Had it been one of my or anyone else’s children, damage would have been done. I shudder to think. I hate those fucking things.

    27. AMH says:

      Thank you for bringing sane, data-driven reporting on the issue.

      “But it’s still a concern because when you talk about a motorized vehicle which can go at high rates of speed which is an issue for pedestrian safety so it’s something we take very seriously.”

      How seriously are they taking all the actually speeding (+25mph) motorized vehicles on the street? I always see drivers speeding on both avenues and streets, and I never see the NYPD ticketing them, ever. Nor are they confiscating “dangerous and illegal” 55-foot trucks.

    28. Janet W. says:

      I have had many near-misses from e-bikes as they sped down bike lanes in the wrong direction, had no lights on at night, never signaled or called out a warning. I walk my dog several times a day including after dark. But this happens without my dog, in the park and on side streets. Crossing Amsterdam Avenue is especially fraught because it has a bike lane which some of the delivery riders seem to think gives them license to speed. That they are mostly immigrants isn’t the issue nor should it be. I am the daughter and grand-daughter of immigrants and some in my family came to the US as recently as 1979. We were raised to obey the law even if it meant a few minutes or more delay. Restaurant deliverers will get their food deliveries made in at most a minute or two later by obeying traffic laws. They are like drivers who can’t stand an extra second waiting for a red light to turn green or allow a pedestrian the right of way. Everyone is in a hurry for no damn good reason when it’s only seconds or a few minutes to wait.
      Even if I don’t get hit, I stand shaken at a near-miss, with my heart racing and blood pressure zooming from the anxiety and fear. I walk away terrified that the next time I’ll get hit. At 82, THAT is the damage I suffer every time this happens. It is cumulative anxiety, and I have no way to stop it except to insist that our elected representa-tives make certain to enforce the laws.
      For those who think e-bikes are not a problem, I was hit by an SUV who went through a red light on Broadway & 97th Street. Is that a problem? If you were hit and hurt by an e-bike would you just walk away and think nothing of it? The laws were legislated for all, for every age, kids and the elderly as well as for the young and middle-aged. It is absurd to neglect the facts that damage IS DONE. Ignoring it all as lefty fluff does even greater damage to the fabric of society where we should care for everyone – the rider of the e-bike AND the pedestrian who is endangered. I support immigrants just as my family did. Making that the argument for ignoring the situation is stupid, immoral and dangerous.

    29. Shroom says:

      Problem: Some ebike riders break laws.
      NYC’s solution: Ban ebikes.

      Problem: Some automobile drivers break laws.
      NYC’s solution: Ban cars? Not a chance.